Durban to Cape Town Road Trip

Sep 30th, 2019, 12:12 AM
  #1  
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Durban to Cape Town Road Trip

We leave for South Africa in just over three weeks time. It is our first time in the country but my wife and I are veterans of several road trips through Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Details of some of those trips can be found on or blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com .

We fly from the U.K. on Emirates via Dubai into Durban from LGW and out of Cape Town to LHR in mid December.

After much deliberation, planning and a great deal of help from South Africa forum members ( thanks!). The itinerary is now (almost) complete, accommodation booked (mostly)for our 45 day road trip from Durban to Cape Town and is eat out below.

KWAZULU NATAL

Durban 3
St Lucia 4
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi NP 2
Umhulanga 1
Underberg ( for Sani Pass & Lesotho) 2

DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAINS
Here we are almost circumnavigating Lesotho and staying in the following places;

Giants Castle 1
Thendele NP 3
Clarens & Golden Gate NP 2
Maloti Drakensberg Route (Smithfield) 1

EASTERN CAPE

Somerset 2
Addo NP 3 (Nyathi Rest Camp 2 + nearby 1)

ROUTE 62/GARDEN ROUTE

Plettenberg Bay 3
Oudtshoorn 2
Prince Albert 1 (via Meringspoort Pass)
Groenfontein Valley 2 (via Swartberg Pass)
Barrydale 2

WINELANDS

Stellenbosch 1/2

WESTERN CAPE

Tulbagh 1
Paternoster 2
Cape Point 1/2
Cape Town 7

We are staying for shorter periods in each place than we would normally, partly because there is just so much to pack in and partly because we fully intend to return another day.

We have chosen not to include stays at any game lodges this time, partly to keep a lid on costs and partly because we have done that before in other parts of Africa. Our primary reason though is because we had heard great things about self driving game viewing in the National Parks and are really looking forward to that aspect of our trip.

We are renting our car from Avis U.K. whom we have used them many times before in various parts of the the world and been generally been happy with their service and prices. I got an exceptional deal this time using a combination of sale offer from Avis and TopCashback which provided a further 20% cash back. I booked the top range non 4WD car on the basis that due to our "Preferred Status" in their loyalty programme, we normally get upgraded a couple of levels (of course this is bound to be the one time it doesn’t happen!). I was quite shocked at the difference in rates between 2WD and 4WD

Most accomodation has been pre- booked via booking.com or direct with the accommodation. Stays in the National Parks were booked direct with San Parks and KZN Wildlife.

What I found unusual compared with our travels elsewhere in the world is that most places seem to have fairly onerous booking conditions e.g. free cancellation is only possible up to a couple of weeks before arrival and many required either full, or 50% payment on booking. Not sure why this is? Perhaps just a country specific custom or maybe they get lots of no shows.

Apart from National Park stays we have mostly gone for smaller B& B type accomodation or self catering rather than full on hotels. We particularly like the fact that many B&Bs also have basic food prep facilities. On a long trip, eating out can get both expensive and repetitive. Home cooking is something we love to do on all our longer trips.

I am sure I have made mistakes in my planning ( it won’t be the first time!) , but I think we will just have to live with any that do crop up along the way.

We will be posting on our blog about our travels in South Africa and, if time and WiFi permits, here as well will. I will try and review places we eat and stay at as we go on TA.

As I said earlier, I have gained an incredible amount of useful information on these forums, if I can repay that in any way by answering any questions etc., please ask away.
crellston is offline  
Sep 30th, 2019, 05:17 PM
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Looking forward to the TR. Hope you have a great trip!
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 30th, 2019, 08:37 PM
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Looking forward to visiting some new places and reliving others with you. I hope you enjoy Cape Town as much as I did.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 07:15 AM
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This looks like an amazing trip. If you like Wine and Brandy then you could probably spend a lot more time in Stellenbosch. There is a generous amount of wine farms within a 20 km range of the town, and also the Van Ryn brandy distillery. If you want to venture a little further out then there's also a Cheetah sanctuary and Craft beer distillery in Somerset West. But they're still easily in reach from Cape Town where you guys are spending a week. The Addo Elephant Park will be a great way to catch some of the local fauna.

Enjoy!
Charlie15 is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 12:22 PM
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Looking forward to your report/blog. Have a great trip!
mlgb is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 11:56 PM
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Yes, I'm also very keen to see how your trip goes.
Charlie15 is offline  
Oct 11th, 2019, 12:55 AM
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Thank you all. This is the longest period we have gone without travelling in the last 12 years. Beyond excited!
crellston is offline  
Oct 30th, 2019, 10:28 PM
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And so it begins...

Our trip to South Africa started with Emirates in business class to Durban via Dubai. Managed to secure exceptional value tickets using Trailfinders, a U.K. travel agency. They included private transfers to and from airport at all destination.
The LGW lounge was superb, quiet with great food option and the LGW -DUB leg was on the excellent A380. We selected the "honeymoon" seats in the centre section, upper deck. Food, drink and service were all v.good.

I was underwhelmed by the lounge in Dubai. It was huge! The food was lacklustre as was the service. Not a great experience which was a shame as we had a long layover there. We later found a smaller lounge next to our gate which was much better.

The DUB - DUR flight was on an older 777/300 . Nice, but nowhere near as spacious and comfortable as the previous flight. It did however have the major advantage of live TV so I could watch England thrash the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup. There were a number of kiwis on our flight and I suspect my exclamations of joy every time England scored may not have enhanced their flight experience. The South Africans on board were rooting for England (probably because they thought the would have an easier ride in the final if they made it) . Based on England’s performance, they are now changing their minds I feel!

Arriving in Durban in the early evening, we reached our home for the next few days, the Goble Palms Urban Retreat, high in the hills of Berea, a residential district. We were shown to our room and immediately new that we had made the correct decision to eschew the chain and bigger hotels, in favour of smaller B&Bs. our room was huge with a terrace overlooking Durban and the sea with the unexpected bonus of a Jacuzzi.

The staff and owner were exceptional. Friendly, helpful and the breakfasts!!

We are really only using Durban as a base for a couple of days to pick up rental car, SIM cards etc. But did manage to get out to a few decent restaurants, notably Mali’s , an Indian close to the guesthouse (one of the best Indian meals ever - superb dosas) and Butcher Boys on Florida Road, the main restaurant quarter. Unsurprisingly, given the name this specialised in meat - again, superb and the equal of anything we have eaten in Argentina or Australia.

Our all to brief foray into sightseeing involved jumping on a hop on hop off bus to visit a few markets downtown. The main one was Victoria Market which seemed quieter than many African markets we have been to. It didn’t feel in te slightest bit threatening as we had been warned by many. Even though we were the only white faces anywhere, everybody was exceedingly friendly and chatty.

Later on that evening, back on our terrace we were treated to a series of spectacular fireworks displays as the city celebrated the start of Diwali - the Hindu Festival of Lights. A lucky coincidence as the first I heard of Diwali was in Dubai airport.

Car Rental - We used AVIS who were very good apart from the fact that we had to return the car 24 hours after pick up as part of the bodywork underneath fell down causing and awful noise ( brand new car!) . They replaced it immediately with an upgraded model.

Next stop is St Lucia in Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park ( Hippo and Rhino Central!) where the journey really begins.

https://accidentalnomads.com/2019/10...ica-road-trip/
crellston is offline  
Oct 31st, 2019, 12:15 AM
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Trailfinders are an excellent agency, their consultants are very well travelled and professional, booking direct is not always the best deal esp in business class. And ZA guest houses are not your typical B&B, they can be very special. We stayed near Florida Road which has many restaurants, enjoyed Durban more than I thought I would.
Odin is offline  
Oct 31st, 2019, 06:59 AM
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Sounds like a great start.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 31st, 2019, 07:42 AM
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Very cool.
Following.
jacketwatch is online now  
Nov 1st, 2019, 12:20 AM
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Thanks guys.

St Lucia

Once we got our replacement car sorted at AVIS we headed straight up the highway to St Lucia stopping only at the massive "Gateway Theatre of Shopping" - not a lot of theatre, but a hell of a lot of shops! We stocked up with provisions for our coming stays in self catering rest camps.

St Lucia is the gateway to the massive Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, considered by some to be even better than the more famous Kruger NP. St Lucia is an island between the estuary and sea and is famed for its hippo population, many of whom wander the streets after dark - a first in traffic hazards for me! SL pretty much exists only to service those visiting the iMfolozi section of the National Park and as such, sees mostly tourists, mostly from Europe and South Africa. A pleasant place with lots of decent restaurants, guest houses and tours.

Our first day was spent driving through the park (home to the "big four" - no lions) up to Cape Vidal, some 40 kms north. Whilst we have done safaris before, we were self drive safaris virgins. It is an incredible experience to drive oneself and spot the animals along the way. Very soon we saw warthogs, hippos, rhinos, an abundance of different types of deer/ antelope and zebras A truly amazing concentration of game.

Cape Vidal is one of the best beaches we have seen anywhere in the world! Wide stretches of white sand stretching for mile upon mile. We hit the beach at lunchtime along with everyone else touring the park. Even so, there were perhaps only 50 people there. We chose to eat our picnic in the car to avoid the monkeys. Those that ate on the beach were bothered not by monkeys but by the raptors ( eagles I think) dive bombing them for food - quite something to behold!

Next day we saw the rain clouds approaching so we abandoned our plans for a 2 hour bush walk in favour of entering the park through a different gate - DukuDuku. Virtually no other cars here so we pretty much had this section of this vast park to ourselves. Well signposted loops and trails took us to creeks, rivers and of course, the ever present lake. Loads of bird life (mlgb, you would love it here!) if only I knew the species! We also saw lots of giraffes, impala and wildebeest right up close. We did see rain that day with some torrential storms that night. Everywhere did seem very green and lush (it is the wetlands after all) but there has been a drought in St Lucia so I guess it was long overdue and very welcome.

Tomorrow we are off to Hilltop Restcamp in the Hluhluwe section of the park. Fingers crossed they have TV or wifi for the Rugby WC final!
crellston is offline  
Nov 1st, 2019, 02:18 AM
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Wow! So nice you have few crowds to deal with.
Just curious does your vehicle insurance cover damage by wild animals? I have seen numerous pictures of animals everywhere attacking tourist vehicles that got too close.
Yes the monkeys are aggressive. Seen that in India but the eagles are another matter.
Best of luck!
jacketwatch is online now  
Nov 1st, 2019, 04:15 AM
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Excited to be following along. Yay birds!
mlgb is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2019, 04:53 AM
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It was a 90 min drive from St Lucia to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and we arrived at Hilltop Camp minutes before the kick off for the England v South Africa Rugby World Cup Final. The bar at the camp was packed with around 100, very vocal, South Africa supporters, me and a woman and her son from London. So slightly outnumbered. Sadly, England failed to secure a second World Cup, losing by 32-12. I have to say it was one of the more boring matches I have ever watched. Well done for getting so far lads - better luck in another 4 years maybe.

Hilltop camp, as the name implies, is set on top of a hill. The views views over the valleys and mountains are breathtaking. All seems very green and there is an abundance of game here. On the 25 km drive in from the parks a Memorial Gate we spot several white rhinos and lots of antelope. After the rugby we drive up to our chalet. A spacious lounge, kitchen and bedroom await us with the added bonus of a balcony and braii. Soon we are visited by our immediate neighbours, a family of monkeys and a baboon suckling her newborn on the rails of our balcony.

There are guided safaris with the rangers three times a day but we preferred to self drive in our own car. A great experience to go out on our own in search of game. For most of the time we rarely saw another vehicle. We did however see lots of game.

This park is noted for bringing back the white rhino from the brink of extinction and we saw six on our first afternoon alone, including a mother and baby playing in a riverbed. We came face to face with a huge bull elephant wandering along the track on which we were driving - magnificent!

The next day we came across a family of elephants taking a mud bath in one of the water holes, under the watchful eye of the bull from the day before.

We have yet to come across any of the lions or cheetahs which inhabit this park but have seen lots of other species from warthogs, to tortoises eagles to giraffes. The range of antelope is incredible, springboks, Sable and waterbuck to name but a few.

Very impressed with Kwazulu Natal so far. St Lucia wetlands and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park have been incredible and are the sort of places in which we could easily have stayed longer and could easily return to - always a good sign..

JW - not sure about AVIS insurance as I am sure, like all car rental companies, they self insure and will try an wriggle out of anything they can. I do have a stand-alone policy which covers me for just about anything, even wildlife encounters. I do recall when renting a campervan in Oz though, we were specifically NOT covered for driving after dark. Our son and his wife did hit a kangaroo when driving in the northern territories and wrote off their hire car ( fortunately in the day time) heaven knows what a hippo could do to a Nissan! It did cross my mind when an elephant crossed just feet in front of us this morning

Last edited by crellston; Nov 3rd, 2019 at 05:01 AM.
crellston is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2019, 07:52 AM
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Good idea to have your own coverage that you can rely on.
I watched part of that match. I wish I understood it better but one thing is clear, its a very rough sport! Too bad it wasn't at least closer but to be 2nd in the world is pretty good. It seems like SA wins it all when they get to the finals.
I hope some day we can go on safari. Its a journey like no other it seems. We have never set foot in Africa yet. Must try one day.
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Nov 3rd, 2019, 10:20 PM
  #17  
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oops!


One last quick afternoon game drive at dusk in search of elephant. We set off for one of the loops off of one of the main tracks through the park. It was a closed loop - only one way in and one way out. We saw plenty of game but no elephant so, as duck approached we started to head back.

On our way out we saw our elephant, a huge bull grazing on the leaves of a fallen tree. Except it hadn’t fallen, as we slowly approached we realised that he had pulled over a large tree entirely blocking the track - our only way out! There was no way around the tree in our 2WD saloon car. So we waited, a few minutes later a game drive from one of the other lodges came from the other direction so we waved frantically at them from the other side of the tree. The drivers first reaction was " I don’t know what to do - the wardens have all gone for the weekend". He told us to stay put in the car ( not that we were planning on getting out with a huge bull, feet away". Eventually another car pulled up behind who had been following us. The guy, a South African was a ranger on his hols. His first words were f****** elephants! Between him, the driver and a machete, they managed to chop enough branches from the fallen tree for us to squeeze through the undergrowth.

After 30 mins or so we were on our way, relieved that we weren’t spending the night in the car. So lucky they came along.
crellston is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 07:58 AM
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The Sani Pass

We stopped overnight in Umhlanga Rocks, the upmarket beachside suburb of Durban, and to break up the long drive from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. We were happy we stopped here as it is a pleasant and clearly very affluent area of the city. In hindsight, I think we should have stayed here on arrival rather than in Durban proper.

A three hour drive up the N3 highway via Pietermaritzburg and we arrived at the Cedar Garden B&B, in the small town of Underberg, at the southern end of the mighty Drakensberg range of mountains.

It is a small unprepossessing town, but our B&B is very pleasant. Set in beautifully manicured gardens it is home to the most amazing array of colourful bird life. We are here, not for the town but tohead up through the nearby Sani Pass which carves its way through the Drakensberg into landlocked Lesotho.

This drive is not allowed in a 2WD so we have booked a tour with www.birdsand beyond.co.za . We are interested in birds but are not especially keen birdwatchers but our B&B recommended this company so we thought we would give them a go.

Our guide and driver Stuart arrived just after breakfast and off we set in his Toyota 4WD which looked more than up to the task. As we set off on the 90min drive to the base of the pass the mountains looked impressive but it was only as we got much closer that their majesty was revealed. An incredibly knowledgeable guy with huge understanding of South African history, geology, culture and wildlife, Stuart pointed out the various peaks with some odd names, like the Giants Cup, the Twelve Apostles Etc. And explained both how they were formed, how they were named and all about the flora and fauna of the Drakensberg.

We gradually ascend the pass to the South African border post where, after some waiting around our passports were eventually stamped. The first part of the drive was along the newly metalled road which will eventually wind its way up into Lesotho to join up with the already finished Chinese road built on the other side of the border. It is a controversial project and not welcomed by the local communities for many reasons. Looking at the progress so far, I think it will be a very long time before it is finished but I would suggest going sooner rather than later. Before the inevitable tour buses arrive.

The major part of the road is still gravel and rock and gets ever rougher, steeper and has more hairpin bends the higher we go. Two of my motorcycling heroes, Charlie Boorman and the film star Ewan MacGregor came this way in there epic motorbike trip from London to Cape Town, made into a TV series The Long Way Down" worth a watch if you can get it on Netflix.

As we climb higher and higher, Stuart points out the various points along the pass, some aptly named like Suicide Ridge and Haemorrhoid Hill! So rough is the track that my iPhone step counter registers 11,500 steps and I haven’t set a foot out of the car yet!

A various points along the way we stop to take photos and just look back in wonder at the incredible views. We have been privileged to have spent a lot of time in mountains around the world from the Andes to Asia and I have to say that the Drakensberg compare favourably with any we have seen.

8 kms further from the South African border post, we finally hit the top of the escarpment and the Lesotho border post. We are through in minutes and drive off along the barren plateau to a village. I say village, it is just a handful of Rondavel huts. Stuart speaks with a woman in one of the huts and she invites us in to her home. It smells strongly of smoke as she cooks on and open fire in the centre of the circular room, some 10 metres in diameter. The domed grass roof is black with soot from 20 years of her cooking fire. The walls and floor are constructed of dung and mud. Everything is spotlessly clean! She is a trader and trades goods she makes with the local shepherds who tend their sheep in the valleys over the summer, returning to the lowlands and their families for te winter. Two of the items that re most popular are her maize beer and her bread. She offers us both. The bread is - red hot as it is just out of the pot, the beer is the colour of milky coffee. Both are genuinely delicious!

After taking our leave of this very hospitable lady, we drive a short way into Lesotho to the highest point the the road @ 3240metre above sea level . A quick scan around the desolate altiplano and it is time to head back to the border for a long awaited beer at the highest pub in Africa, or at least that’s what the sign says. Apparently, someone built one higher in Ethiopia!

After lunch we head back back down the pass through the border posts and muse on the incredibly hard lives the Basuto people lead in Lesotho. Like so many other places in the world many are leaving in the hope of better lives elsewhere. Sadly with unemployment rampant at 29%, in South Africa, I doubt they will find it there.

PS JW - yes Rugby is a rough sport. Fortunately for me, I started playing at school at the age of 11 so knew no different. Have also played American football on a student exchange many years ago. Not quite so rough - especially with the helmets and tons of padding
crellston is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 02:15 PM
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Loved hearing about that lady who had you in her home, fed you and served her home made brew. Thats wonderful.
Sad to hear of how poverty stricken some people are there.
Actually I do wonder if all the padding in US football, especially the helmets have led to more head injuries. You may know of the diagnosis CTE from repeated blows to the head. I would imagine in rugby as rough as it is if such head trauma occurs far less. In US football the helmet is often used as sort of a lead striking point for a tackle but not so in rugby or at least it seems to me. I wonder what the statistics on this are.
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jacketwatch is online now  
Nov 8th, 2019, 04:47 PM
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Hluhluwe-iMfolozi sounds magnificent; thank you for adding it to my radar. I had hoped to visit the Drakensbergs during my previous visit to South Africa, but couldn't make it work for the itinerary; glad to know you found it worthwhile.
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